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Deadly Winter Storm; Honoring A Legend; Thrill Kill Arrest

Aired December 9, 2013 - 05:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: What a morning and not in a good way. A severe winter storm hurling snow and ice everywhere. Thousands of planes grounded. Roads a mess. Indra Petersons is tracking the storm damage and she's going to tell us what's in store for the day.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: A gathering of celebrities and leaders, the likes of which we have not seen in generation. We are live as the world prepares to honor Nelson Mandela.

BERMAN: So, a newly wedded couple arrested in a shocking crime. Accused of using the internet to play a deadly game.

PEREIRA: Good morning, and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Michaela Pereira.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. It is Monday, December 9th. It is 5:00 in the East.

PEREIRA: We begin with this massive deadly storm now socking the East Coast with storm and ice after wreaking havoc cross nearly half of the country.

BERMAN: Yes, you name it, it's done it. Some of the nation's busiest airports saw thousands of flights canceled this weekend, hundreds more are on hold today. Many of these flights in Dallas/Ft. Worth. A huge hub slammed with cold weather and ice. Travelers have been stuck there for days waiting for their flights to be rescheduled.

This morning alone, more than 700 flights there have been canceled. Heavy snow is causing problems at Washington, D.C.'s airport. If you're flying today, we feel for you. Beyond that, it's probably a good idea to call your airlines.

PEREIRA: Absolutely. If you're picking somebody up at the airport, call ahead.

Look at this -- this snow leading to massive pileups, including the one we are showing you right now with Racine Wisconsin. Officials there say there were 60 crashes in that area on Sunday.

BERMAN: Sixty?


At least one person killed and dozens others were injured. Those driving and ridings in cars and buses on Interstate 94 say conditions were simply horrible.


LUIS ALANIS, BUS PASSENGER: You could barely see down the road. I was on my phone. Next thing I knew, I looked up and just swerving through cars, dodging cars and we ended up in the ditch.


BERMAN: There were also wrecks in Missouri. A chain reaction crash on interstate 70 near Kansas City, leaving a person and a child critically injured. Seven cars and a tractor-trailer were all involved in the accident.

Across the country, at least seven people have died in storm related incidents. >





PEREIRA: Imagine how terrifying to witness that. Sheets of ice literally flying off the rooftops in north Texas. That scene in Plano where ice collected for days because of the storm system we had.

BERMAN: Oh, my!

PEREIRA: It was some two inches thick when temperatures started to rise and melt and it simply slid off. Amazingly, no one was hurt. Some cars were damaged, though. As for those who saw it happened, they say it was frightening!


NICOLE JAIME, PLANO RESIDENT: My dog started barking and I heard the ice starting to break away from the roof. You could hear it. Don't walk on the sidewalk, anybody!


BERMAN: Those are some amazing pictures!

PEREIRA: The sound is just chilling, just chilling to hear that.


PEREIRA: Oh, my goodness. Indra Petersons is watching this storm. Have you ever seen anything like that, Indra? That's incredibly.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I definitely have not being a west coaster. But what a scary thought that something we're still going to be dealing with over the next several days is another system making its way through. A little bit of dusting of snow in Manhattan here in New York.

But notice, that's not the story. It's just south of it where we're starting to continue to see this icing. Notice, stretching all the way back even in through Virginia this morning. So that's the concern. All of the flight delays. Of course, once you have freezing rain that is never a good thing for flying, so definitely check those flights.

What we are looking for larger amounts around Roanoke, Virginia. That's where we could see about a quarter inch of that ice. But notice, extending really all the way even in through New England, of course, there will be more of a wintry mix. A mix of ice and snow.

Just also concern, you could have those icy roadways covered by snow so definitely be aware as you're driving and take the extra time today. Off the lake, we could see lake-effect snow about three to five inches more of that expected. Remember, there are two systems. Here's one we are dealing with right now, continue to freak havoc in the morning.

Notice in the South, another low making its way up. So, by overnight tonight in the early hours tomorrow, notice another little round of ice and snow expected, especially here in the Northeast, even as we go throughout the morning hours, in through the afternoon in Newark, look for even more snow. In the Northeast, from one to three inches of additional snow, really the Northeast, all the way back into New England, Mid-Atlantic, I'm going to say that right, and rain down in towards the Southeast. So that's the concert, so much to talk about here. It's hard to get it all in. But that's really what we're talking about.

PEREIRA: It's been a while since we've seen a system, various system affecting entire nation, everybody is cold right now.

PETERSONS: And major hub and all the roadways. It pretty much doesn't matter where you are.

BERMAN: I was watching football yesterday and all sorts of East Coast games and all of the East Coast, every stadium is getting nailed with this stuff!

PEREIRA: Oh, my.

PETERSONS: There's few people in the audience, because they didn't want to be there.

PEREIRA: Better to watch at home knows days.

Indra, thanks so much and we continue to watch weather today.

Turning to other headlines this morning, eight major tech companies are urging the Obama administration to set limits on government surveillance. In a letter signed by Apple, Google, Microsoft and others, the companies say the government needs to better balance security needs and privacy concerns. And they want the U.S. to adopt reforms, including clear limits on spying. BERMAN: The Senate is back in session today for the first time since the Democrats went nuclear, blowing up the rules over filibusters in hopes of pushing through the president's nominees. Democratic leader Harry Reid plans to finish up work on some of those nominations, and also on a defense spending bill before the holiday break in two weeks. It is not clear if Republicans might turn to other procedural moves to try to slow down the Democrats and getting some of the stuff through.

PEREIRA: In the meantime, we could actually see a federal budget before the week is out. House and Senate negotiators are set to be close to finishing a budget deal the first in some two years. "The Washington Post" says the agreement would roll back some of the cuts known as the sequester and take some actions to reduce the deficits.

Overall it may not be the grand bargain that some were hoping for. Negotiators have been working to try and find common ground since October as part of the agreement that ended the government shutdown.

BERMAN: Yes, not grand at all. This is the teeny tiny bargain.


BERMAN: Now to South Africa. The nation and the world gather to remember Nelson Mandela. Sunday was a national day of prayer in South Africa with millions paying their respects to the former president. The preparations are now under way for a memorial service that will bring dozens of world leaders, including President Obama, to South Africa starting today.

Robyn Curnow is live outside Mandela's home this morning.

Robyn, you've just spoken to one of his closest confidants. What is she saying?

ROBYN CURNOW, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we are hearing for the first time what is going on inside this house behind me, the home where Nelson Mandela died. We have been seeing a lot of people coming outside in the past few days laying flowers, paying their respects.

But we understand that according to African tradition, Nelson Mandela's wife, Graca Machel, is sitting on a mattress in the living room in the lounge and receiving people throughout the day. She will be essentially sitting in that position welcoming visitors and there are a lot of visitors, political leaders, friends -- people from across South Africa that have some sort of importance and they are coming to pay their respects to the widow.

We are also hearing from Zelda La Grange, Mandela's closest assistant. She's worked for him for nearly 20 years, and she gives us some sense what have it's like inside.


ZELDA LA GRANGE, MANDELA'S PERSONAL ASSISTANT: It's obviously sad. There's sadness in the house, but there is also, I have to say, an undertone of celebration almost I want to say. People are celebrating Madiba's life. They are grateful there and people are coming who haven't seen each other for years.

So, that's the incredible thing people getting together again each in these days.

CURNOW: He was suffering, I understand, quite a lot in those last few months. I mean, is there a sense of relief perhaps is the wrong word, that he's at least free from that?

LA GRANGE: Yes, well, you know what, Mrs. Machel and the family makes sure he wasn't through any pain through the doctors of course, and he wasn't suffering but, you know, Madiba was such an independent person. He was such a proud person that it must have been difficult for him. So it is -- it is, in a way, it is -- he had to come at some point.

CURNOW: What was it like when you saw him for the last time? Do you know you were saying goodbye?

LA GRANGE: At the time, I didn't, but I made sure I said the things that needed to be said.

CURNOW: Do you think he heard you?



CURNOW: OK. Bringing together people even in this and, boy, oh, boy, are we going to see it at Tuesday on this memorial service. We hear from South African authorities that already 91 current heads of state have confirmed their attendance. Ten former heads of state will be there, as well as 71 other eminent persons, royalty and leaders and that sort of thing.

So, at the moment, it's looking like it's going to be the biggest ever memorial service/funeral we have seen in recent memory. I was at John Paul II's funeral, the pope in Rome a few years ago we know 70 heads of state were at that. Already, it's beating John Paul II. I think Princess Diana and, also, Yitzhak Rabin. I mean, these are the biggest funerals in the recent decades. I think, already Nelson Mandela will really go out with a great sendoff.

BERMAN: That's right. A gathering like we have no seen in generations.

Robyn Curnow in South Africa for us this morning -- thanks so much, Robyn.

PEREIRA: You're next. A chilling message to the president of Ukraine. Hundreds of thousands turned out an anti-government protest Sunday, toppling a statue of Lenin in Kiev. Demonstrations erupted last week after President Viktor Yanukovych scrapped a deal with the European Union, saying he wanted closer ties with Moscow. Observers feel the president could resort to violent crackdowns if this unrest continues. BERMAN: The prime minister of Thailand has now dissolved that nation's parliament, calling for new elections after weeks of bitter anti-government protest there. This after the main opposition part the party threatened to resign. At issue is the prime minister's attempt to grant amnesty to her predecessor and brother ousted in a military coup in 2006. Critics doubt that new elections will calm the opposition.

PEREIRA: A rare visit to Pakistan by U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is in that nation today, for meetings with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and other officials. They are likely to talk about Afghanistan and security issues along the country's border, including U.S. drone strikes.

A defense secretary hasn't gone to Pakistan since January of 2010.

A short break here on "EARLY START". A newly wed couple, this is a crazy story, charged with murder. Police say they did it just to prove they could and both are now in jail.

BERMAN: Wow. Questions this surrounding the deadly shooting of a college student. Why did campus police kill honor student during a traffic stop? It's coming up next.


PEREIRA: Welcome back to "EARLY START". In central Pennsylvania, a newlywed couple is accused of a shocking crime, a thrill/kill murder.

Police say 18-year-old Miranda Barber and her 22-year-old husband Elliott lured a 42-year-old man with a Craigslist ad promising him female companionship but murdering him, stabbing and strangling him in a car last month. The couple then allegedly dumped the body, went to a Walmart and box supplies to clean up the car and went to a strip club. Police believe they did it all for the thrill of it.


STEPHEN MAZZEO, SUNBURY POLICE CHIEF: They told us they intended to kill somebody together. They had tried to kill other individuals and failed and this happened to be one that actually worked.


PEREIRA: Police say Miranda Barber insists that her husband was not involved and she acted alone and that she blacked out and doesn't remember what happened. Both are due in court later this month.

BERMAN: That is a crazy story.

Now to Texas, where there are many questions this morning about the deadly shooting of a college student. Twenty-three-year-old Cameron Reddish (ph) from the University of Incarnate Word was pulled over on a street just blocks from campus in San Antonio on Friday morning. He was reportedly driving erratically and then apparently got into some kind of altercation with the university police officer who stopped him.

Witnesses tell the San Antonio press news they heard the officer say stop resisting and then someone said, are you going to shoot me? Seconds later, there was gunfire and Reddish was dead. Friends say he was a gentle person and this doesn't make any sense.


ALEC CONTE, FRIEND: It's hard to even think that he is gone, like he was here three days ago. We just saw him and closure is one of those things that is going to take time.

SARA DAVIS, FRIEND: The story just doesn't really make sense to any of us and I think we're mostly just angry and want answers.


BERMAN: A lot of questions there. The officer has been placed on administrative leave and an investigation into what happened continues.

PEREIRA: It's hard to make sense of that.

Jury selection beginning today in the murder trial of a newlywed bride accused of killing her husband. Prosecutors say Jordan Lynn Graham pushed 25-year-old Cody Johnson off a cliff in Montana's Glacier National Park just eight days after their wedding last summer. They say they have evidence that Graham blindfolded her husband before pushing him. Her attorneys say it was all an accident and are accusing police and prosecutors of misconduct.

BERMAN: A court hearing today for hiker Aaron Ralston. The man who cut off his arm to escape a canyon in Utah became the subject of the film "127 Hours." Ralston was arrested on Saturday night at his home in Denver on assault and wrong's to minor charges. But details of what happened have not been relieved. The woman who owns the home apparently was also arrested and faces similarly charges.

PEREIRA: In what could be his final act on the public stage, disgraced former San Diego Mayor Bob Filner will be sentenced today. Filner resigned in August, accused of sexual misconduct by nearly 20 woman. In October, Filner pleaded guilty to three counts involving three different accusers. The 71-year-old is expected to accept a plea deal involving no jail time. House arrest and a ban on seeking public office in the future.

Finally, a chapter closing out of that troubling in San Diego.

BERMAN: So, a rare meningitis, Princeton University will be begin administering the first doses of vaccine. Since March, eight people have contracted the sometimes tightly B-strain of meningitis. Last month, the FDA Okayed limited use of the vaccine which is not approved in the United States. It's recommended for students living on campus.

PEREIRA: Another major musical act saying no to SeaWorld because of CNN's film of "Black Fish". This time, it's the rock duo Heart which posted a note that they will not do a tour at SeaWorld this February. But sisters Nancy and Ann did no elaborate on their reasons.

A spokesperson for the park said it respect the decisions by Heart, Bare-naked Ladies and Willie Nelson not to perform, blaming, quote, "a small group of misinformed individuals denying fans their concerts. "Black Fish" raises questions about how SeaWorld treats killer whales in captivity.

BERMAN: Eleven more whales have been found dead in Florida, believed to be part of the pod stranded in the Everglades last week. Fifty-one short-finned whales were first spotted Tuesday night. Late last week, there was a brief glimmer of hope that some of the whales seemed to be moving to deeper waters but then they seemed to retreat. These new deaths would bring the total to 22. Wildlife experts will examine if disease is a factor here.

PEREIRA: Singer Susan Boyle is going public being diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome, a form of autism. The Scottish singing sensation told a London newspaper she's relieved to finally know the truth. The 52-year-old says as a child, she had difficult learning and was told she had brain damage from oxygen deprivation at birth. You will recall Boyle became famous almost overnight after singing "I dream a dream" on a British talent show.

What an incredible voice.

BERMAN: I was going to say, quite a voice on that one.

PEREIRA: Ooh, my word. Coming, snow stole the show in the NFL. Look at those games. Andy Scholes has got a smile on his face because he is inside and warm and tracking all of the slippery plays. It's up next in our "Bleacher Report".

BERMAN: Plus, it is time for your morning rhyme. Tweet us with your own original verse. It can be about anything.

PEREIRA: What rhymes with snow?


BERMAN: Everything! #earlystart, #morningrhyme. We'll read the best ones on the air in our next half hour.


PEREIRA: Mark this down as a Sunday as unforgettable in the NFL. We saw all sort of snow. Plenty of scoring. And some pretty sensational finishes.

BERMAN: You sold the heck out of there right there! Andy Scholes joins us with "The Bleacher Report." Bring it to us, Andy.

ANDY SCHOLES, BLEACHER REPORT: Yes, good morning, guys.

You know, this is by far the best Sunday of the NFL season. A record 90 touchdowns were scored! The snowstorm that made its way across the northeast definitely made for fun atmospheres. The games affected the most were in Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and Philadelphia. It was absolutely pouring down snow in the majority of these games! More than six inches accumulated on the field in the Eagles/Lions game.

Check out Calvin Johnson (INAUDIBLE) comes up with full of snow. Ground crews did their best to improve the playing conditions but it was tough. The Lions, they fumbled seven time in the game! Neither team even dared try a field goal.

Now the weather, it did help facilitate some crazy finishes. In the span of 20 minutes, three games ended in wild fashion. Vikings/Ravens, it was the craziest of them all and combined to score 36 points. This is going very fast because they scored 36 points in the final 2:05 of the game. The Ravens got the last laugh scoring that final touchdown with four seconds left.

In just two minutes later in Pittsburgh, the Steelers were desperately lobbing the ball around the field and Antonio Brown breaks free and looks like he scores the game winning touchdown but he stepped out of bounds! Game over. Dolphins win.

In about 10 minutes later in Foxborough, the Patriots -- they capped off an amazing touchdown and they scored a touchdown and got the onside kick and scored another touchdown within 30 seconds and they beat the Browns by one point.

All right. Out in sunny, Los Angeles, Lakers fans rejoice as Kobe Bryant made his triumphant return to action last night. The Lakers star had surgery back in April to repair a torn left Achilles. He played in this one and just scored nine points and eight rebounds. The Lakers went on to lose to Raptors.

All right. Trending on, the bowl schedule was out and, as expected, Florida State will be play Auburn for the national title. The game will be January 6, in Pasadena, California. More than likely feature the Heisman trophy winner. Jameis Winston is the odds on favorite. Now, voters are going to turn in those ballots this afternoon.

And, guys, as we know, Pasadena, California, is always good weather for the national championship game when it's played there. The Super Bowl, on the other hand farmer's almanac is predicting a blizzard-like condition like we saw yesterday.

So, the Super Bowl in February maybe like that Lions/Eagles game.

PEREIRA: This separates the men from the boys, doesn't it? That is no joke, that kind of weather.

BERMAN: Yes, the next meaningful football game to be played in the New York area will, in fact, be the Super Bowl.

SCHOLE: Giants and Jets both out in the playoffs.

BERMAN: Andy Scholes, always great to see you. Thanks so much.

SCHOLES: All right. BERMAN: We will have the top headlines and everything you need to know for the day ahead, absolutely everything -- right after the break.


PEREIRA: Thousands of flights canceled, passengers stranded for days. The deadly winter storm making a mess of plans, not to mention a huge part of the country.

Indra Petersons is tracking the storm for us as snow continues to fall this morning.

BERMAN: One of the greatest gatherings of world leader that this planet has ever known, preparing to honor Nelson Mandela. Chris Cuomo joins us live from South Africa.

PEREIRA: A newlywed couple accused after shocking thrill kill. Police say they used Craigslist to lure their unsuspecting victim.

BERMAN: Welcome back to "EARLY START", everyone. I'm John Berman.